Fails to list one basic reason: In Sunday's Washington Post, Mitt Romney offered a ringing endorsement of Betsy DeVos, Donald J. Trump's multi-billionaire nominee for secretary of education.
DeVos is a strong proponent of those policies which have long been described as "education reform." Just for the record, people who gain control of the language will often find success in the political wars.
Proponents of "education reform" also tend to control the narratives, and the supply of facts. The things you're allowed to read in mainstream newspapers will tend to align with their views.
Romney's op-ed column offers some strong examples of this unfortunate state of affairs. Consider this passage, in which Romney makes a claim which is virtually required by law within the mainstream press:
ROMNEY (1/8/17): It's important to have someone who will challenge the conventional wisdom and the status quo. In 1970, it cost $56,903 to educate a child from K-12. By 2010, adjusting for inflation, we had raised that spending to $164,426—almost three times as much. Further, the number of people employed in our schools had nearly doubled. But despite the enormous investment, the performance of our kids has shown virtually no improvement."The performance of our kids has shown virtually no improvement?" In major newspapers like the Post, the constant promulgation of such claims is virtually required by Hard Pundit Law.
Everyone has heard these claims a million times by now. That said, Romney's claim is crazily wrong, as we've endlessly noted.
For all major demographic groups, scores have soared since 1970 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the federal testing program which Romney specifically cites in his column. That said, it's virtually impossible to learn that fact in the pages of major newspapers like the Post and the New York Times.
Persistently, the Romneys make gloomy claims of this type. The liberal world sits and stares.
Everyone, of the right and the left, has agreed to this rolling deception. The right pushes this claim for various reasons, financial gain among them. The left says nothing about this deception because manifestly the left doesn't care.
We were struck by another part of Romney's column. That's the part where he semi-correctly praises the Massachusetts public schools.
In the passage shown below, Romney makes a semi-accurate statement about the Bay State's educational greatness. Then he offers seven reasons for the Bay State's success:
ROMNEY: Massachusetts has consistently ranked No. 1 among all 50 states on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. I believe that there are many reasons for this success. Among them are a statewide curriculum developed by our own educators; a state exam in math, science and English required to graduate from high school; extensive school choice among standard public schools, charter schools, public exam schools, private schools, Catholic schools and cyber schools; superb teachers; and involved parents. Massachusetts has also benefited from creative political leadership on both sides of the aisle and from remarkable flexibility by our education unions.According to Romney, Massachusetts "has consistently ranked No. 1 among all 50 states" on the Naep. As we'll see, that statement can be defended as accurate. But in some ways it's grossly wrong.
After making that statement, Romney lists seven reasons for the Bay State's success. He disapears another obvious reason for his home state's success.
Let's start with Romney's initial claim. Is Massachusetts really number one on the Naep?
Yes, it actually is—and then again, it isn't.
In its main component, the Naep tests students in Grade 4 and Grade 8 in reading and math. Here's where Massachusetts stood in Grade 8 math in most recent testing:
Massachusetts, rank among the 50 statesTo access all state-by-state data, click here.
Grade 8 math, 2015 Naep
All students: 1
White students: 1
Black students: 4
Hispanic students: 20 (out of 47 states)
Massachusetts was top dog overall. Its white students also scored best among the fifty states. (White students in DC outscored the Bay State by a lot. The reason for that is obvious.)
The Bay State's black students didn't score best among the fifty states, but they ranked quite high. But uh-oh! Its Hispanic students were near the middle of the pack. (Three states didn't have enough Hispanic students to generate usable data.)
A similar pattern obtains in Grade 8 reading, though the Bay State's shortfall is much more striking:
Massachusetts, rank among the 50 statesIn Grade 8 reading, the Bay State is still near the top overall. But its Hispanic students scored about as low as any such group in the nation.
Grade 8 reading, 2015 Naep
All students: 2
White students: 2
Black students: 7
Hispanic students: 44 (out of 46 states)
This brings us back to Romney's initial claim—and to the missing reason for the Bay State's overall success.
It's true! Overall, Massachusetts has tended to "rank No. 1 among all 50 states" on the Naep exams. But Romney skips one of the reasons for that relative success—the state's demographic "advantage."
Massachusetts has fewer low-income and "minority" kids than most comparable states. Given the way our public schooling currently works, this means that Massachusetts faces fewer demographic challenges than many other states. As Romney lists the reasons for the Bay State's success, he fails to include this obvious reason—and he forgets to mention the current underwhelming performance of the state's Hispanic kids.
(On international tests, Massachusetts tends to match Finland on the Pisa, tends to outscore it on the Timss. It does this despite the fact that Finland has fewer "demographic challenges" than Massachusetts does. As American citizens, you basically aren't allowed to know about how well Massachusetts scores on the international stage. At the Washington Post and the New York Times, information of this type is plainly not allowed.)
In this, the so-called information age, the world belongs to people like Romney and DeVos when it comes to information about the public schools. They offer all manner of selective and misleading information. But so, as a general rule, do our mainstream newspapers.
The Maddows agree to let them do this. The Maddows agree this is good.
(So does Chris Hayes, of course. Don't even talk about Chait or the rest of the whole sprawling print corps. This is the way our career liberals roll. Our career liberal world is a joke.)